North Korean border guards fired on a group of five North Koreans fleeing over the Yalu River into China in early September, killing four, Daily NK sources reported on November 3.
Sources said that the group was led by a woman who arranges defections and is the wife of a political officer in a border patrol unit in Pochon County, Ryanggang Province.
The authorities already appeared to have known about the broker and her activities and may have targeted the group in advance, sources also reported.
FAILED DEFECTION ATTEMPT
The broker had reportedly planned to take the group to the river through Pochon County on September 1.
She was forced to change her plans after hearing from a source in the border patrol unit there that the Ministry of State Security (MSS) was closely watching the unit, sources said.
Instead, she reportedly led the group to Kimhyongjik County in nearby Jagang Province and handed them off to a border guard involved in the illegal operation.
Sources said that the group of five had been walking across the Yalu River with the water at knee height when they were fired on by nearby border patrol officers.
Four members of the group were reportedly killed in the barrage, while one escaped across the river into China.
The female broker and her husband were arrested by the MSS under human trafficking charges and have been subject to a preliminary examination for the past two months, sources confirmed.
In North Korea, preliminary examinations include the entire interrogation process prior to suspects being indicted.
DOOMED FROM THE START
Daily NK sources indicated that the group’s defection attempt may have already been known by the authorities.
“Before the incident occurred, the broker was already under suspicion of conducting human trafficking and was being watched by MSS agents,” one of the sources explained. “The MSS likely had inside knowledge of her plans.”
Daily NK sources also reported that many locals expressed dismay that the group was shot at instead of detained.
“North Korean leaders are trying to deter North Koreans from crossing over the border by allowing the border patrol to fire gunshots there,” one of the sources said.
He added that the deaths in this recent incident “was due to a government order that border guards should fire on suspected defectors with an intent to kill.”
Sources speculated that the North Korean border guards may have selected this group to be directly fired upon because their presumed final destination was South Korea.
*Translated by Violet Kim
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